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Erin Go Bake: Making Irish Soda Bread for the First Time

March 17, 2012

By Creator:Simon Kozhin

There are three kinds of people in the world. Those who are Irish, those who wish they were Irish, and those who are Irish by marriage.

As the wife of a Chirish I am now officially Irish (by marriage) and I take my new heritage-in-law seriously. I’ve got my green outfit picked out and ready, the Celtic station is playing on Pandora, the Irish Wedding Blessing China on display, AND, most importantly, the traditional Irish recipes are on hand.

And so, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year, in honor of my Irish Renaissance, I baked Irish Soda Bread for the first time, using my husband’s grandmother’s recipe, passed down through the generations.

Not only did I bake this St. Paddy’s Day staple, but also, with the help of my own beloved Wild Irish Rose, we captured it all on video, so you could join me on my adventures of being Irish by Marriage.

I’m Irish Now. Let’s Bake!

In this little film, Baking With BirdieBee, follow me as I make Irish Soda Bread for the first time. My mother-in-law gave this recipe to me at my Bridal Shower, and she was given this recipe by her mother-in-law, who was born in the U.S., lived in Ireland, returned to the U.S. and married an Irish immigrant.

I definitely learned a few things along the way that I will do differently the next time.

First, the bread wasn’t so difficult to make. The way my husband talked about it in years past, I thought it took 5 hours to make with several attempts hurled into the garbage. The ingredients were simple (once I found Cream of Tartar) and were easy to throw together. And, I whipped the bread together astonishingly quick. The bread did not have to sit for hours to rise; yeast not necessary (YNN, common acronym). The Baking Soda plays the key role in the recipe (hence the name “Soda” bread, acting as the raising agent (almost makes me want to be a scientist.)) The prep time is maybe 10 minutes (if you go slow) and the bake time is about 60 minutes.

The last two things that I would do differently, use one bread pan, and bake longer. I had poured the dough into two large bread pans, and so the bread came out SUPER flat, but still edible (and delicious). And, I should have baked the bread for maybe 10 minutes longer, as it was a little too gooey on the inside. (I think that this must be the hard part, making sure you bake the bread enough/not too long).

It would have been nice for the bread to turn out perfect my first time, but as we Irish say, “You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your father was.”

Now, without further ado, I present “Baking with BirdieBee.

Sláinte!

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Magical Alert: It’s Spring!

March 12, 2012

My husband is in the other room talking on the phone with his mom, and I’d like to announce, that I just heard him say, “I think Winter is over.”

Haul out the banjo and iron your dresses–IT’s SPRING!!!!

Punxsutawney Phil clearly had his head up his butt this year because there will NOT be six more weeks of winter.

Just to reiterate the said head-up-his-buttness, last year, the ole groundhog predicted an early spring (at last), AND for the first time in my ENTIRE life I had to wear my winter coat on my birthday, which falls on Memorial Day Weekend. UNHEARD. OF. PHIL…!

So, let me be clear, the real Spring Come Early Soothsayer, my husband, has declared it to be true: Winter is Over and Spring Is Here. (And it’s going to be  77 on Wednesday…The Weather Channel Predicted That One.)

These last couple of days really have felt like Spring, temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s. And today, the First Monday after Daylight Saving’s Spring Ahead, we’re all feeling like Spring really has arrived. It’s nice of the Weather to cooperate, too.

We live across from a park, and it is already abundant with screaming children. I’m itching to be tan, already busting out my shorts (though I won’t leave the house wearing them). The air smells like grass already. And, people are grilling out. Hotdog(s), please!

To celebrate the Beautiful Weather Come Early, my husband lured me (with Starbucks and Dinkel’s spinach croissant) into hiking in Starved Rock State Park this past weekend. The spinach croissant was great, but Starved Rock was even better.

Enjoy a few knockout pics from our 6 hour hike, and be inspired, now that WINTER is OVER, to check out Starved Rock for yourself. And, HAPPY SPRING!

My First Casimir Pulaski Day

March 5, 2012

My husband and I took off of work today, and little did I know, it was Casimir Pulaski Day!  (I grew up in Wisconsin and Ohio so I had never heard of Casimir Pulaski Day until I went away to college. My freshman year roommate is a Chicago-Native and she was a big fan of Casimir Pulaski Day–it seemed made-up to me, but I took her word for it.)

As it turned out, Casimir Pulaksi Day is a legit holiday observed in Illinois, held on the first Monday of March in memory of Casimir Pulaski, a Revolutionary War cavalry officer from Poland. And, it’s a day to pay tribute to Chicago’s Polish Community.

I am not very Polish (an eighth perhaps?), but I love a good Holiday and I love being a Chicagoan–so I am very pleased to announce that I was able to celebrate my first Casimir Pulaski Day.

We started the holiday off with a bang last night by going to my first Second City show: “Sky’s the Limit (Weather Permitting).” Definitely funny, definitely a “must” on your Chicago Bucket List. I think my favorite part about a Second City show, is the cabaret seating (although our table was way off to the side, so we could only see the actors in profile view), the beers (definitely have a drink or two), and the talent. While most of this show is scripted, the improv elements were so much fun. It’s exciting to see these people act on their toes, quick at their wits. And who knows, one of them may end up on SNL or in Bridesmaids II. Exciting! My favorite actor was Derek Shipman–keep your eyes peeled for this guy.

After the show, my husband and I went across the street to Corcoran’s Grill and he had his first green beer of the season. I guess it’s never too early for Green Beer.

Today I woke up at 9:00 and banged through Week 4 of Jillian Michaels’ Ripped. (I’m already ripped, I am just “maintaining” at this point….JK)

And then we went to the DMV!!! WHOO-HOO! How exciting! But seriously, we were lucky it was open (Casimir Pulaski!). I finally got my new driver’s license with my married name, which I finally changed earlier this month (how long have I been married now, 15 months?) Plus, now I have a drivers’ license again. This trip to the DMV was relatively painless, which is great because I have a legit fear of public offices workers, which I will expound upon another day.

After that we chowed down on some leftover chili, really spiced up our stomachs, and then made some trips to the grocery store and came home to do three loads of laundry.

(Are you still reading? Wow, I like you.)

While I folded the laundry, I watched my favorite guilty pleasure Pan Am. This is a terrible show, but I really like it. The outfits are pretty and the characters are all likable. Who cares if the story line is weak and that they aired the episodes out of order? I Love it.

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how I spent my first official Casimir Pulaski Day. Needless to say, I am set for the week, and I needed today to recover from the mania of Friday night’s Justin Bierber puzzle.

Cheers to a productive and somewhat memorable Casimir Pulaski Day!

Never Too Old for Puzzles.

 

 

Relishing Happiness

March 2, 2012

Everyone loves Fridays. Even grumpy people are happy on Friday. The air is lighter, work less stressful. Just think about how much we LOVE Fridays…and how good it feels.

On my commute home this evening, I listened to a really, really good podcast–the subject: being held hostage. I first heard this podcast two years ago when it originally aired on This America Life, but as I was on the train listening to it (again), I was so riveted by it that I didn’t realize that I had heard it before.

The segment that really got my attention and got the old mind a’ thinking, was called “I’ve Fallen in Love and I Can’t Get Up.” In this segment, Chris Higgins tells a story about a man named Matt Frerking, who is literally held hostage by love.

Four years ago, Frerking developed narcolepsy with cataplexy. Narcolepsy is a disease that causes sudden sleep attacks–With cataplexy, the slightest trigger can cause an attack of paralysis.

And for Frerking, that trigger is love…happiness…

In a society where we are guaranteed the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, this seems just criminal. In a world where we live to stop and smell the roses, delight in the simple things, strive for a lifetime of love…I just cannot imagine not being able to love and be happy, freely, because your own body won’t let you.

In the story, Higgins tells how Frerking tries to make himself learn to enjoy things less. That he will pretend to be a robot, to avoid his body from locking up, frozen from movement for minutes at a time.

Even seeing strangers express love can trigger paralysis.

As I listen to this story, on a Friday of all days, my body buzzing all day long with yesterday’s elation from winning a trip to Mexico (!!!!), I can barely fathom the tragedy of having to avoid happiness.

Higgins finishes the story with hope though:

“But it’s important to point out, even though Matt is being trained by his brain everyday not to feel these emotions, he still has them…Although Matt tries to avoid happiness, it’s still a part of his life. He’s proof that you can’t avoid happiness, it will find you no matter what.”

Frerking’s story is a tremendous one and it touched me deeply today, today, on this Friday.

We need to relish our happiness.

 

 

What a Difference a Day Makes

March 1, 2012

Remember yesterday when I was in the worst spirits imaginable–so low that I was crazy enough to write about something as terrifying as PMS (I only had three hits on that one btw, terrible topic)–well, WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES.

Also, remember when I was trying to win a trip to Mexico?

Today, March 1, 2012, WE WON!!!! My husband and I have spent the last month entering our travel agent’s Facebook contest, to win a trip to Mexico. Today was the drawing and my husband won and we are going to the Riviera Maya, baby!!!! Air fare for two and three nights at an Iberostar Resort, which also means we will extend our stay a couple more days and go back to the place of dreams, our Honeymoon resort, the Iberostar Grand Paraiso.

My heart is singing. I might even be flying!

Dreams really do come true!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

CELEBRATION!!!!

Before Aunt Flo Comes To Visit

February 29, 2012

Warning: Taboo and Womanly Topics Abound 

February 29: Today is a day that our calendar normally skips over. For some, it’s special day, a birthday that comes only every 4 years. For others, it’s a day of concern, will they really get paid for work on a day that doesn’t usually exist?

For me, I would have like to leap over this particular Leap Day.

For some reason I am feeling especially gloomy. Things are annoying me more than ever. I have no patience for anyone around me. And it’s a Wednesday and I don’t like Wednesdays.

Ugh, I am sounding like the worst kind of person.

I don’t know if it is winter doldrums, or if I am burnt out at work, or if I hate working downtown amongst 100 billion people who never share the sidewalk, or if I’m just becoming a cynical adult.

I hope and pray with all my heart that I am not any of those things.

I would like to say these feelings are due to PMDD, but for all I know this is a condition that a Yaz commercial may have invented so any frustrated women would subscribe to their birth control.

There are a lot of frustrated women.

I think the worst part about being a women, is that we may never know if our feelings are actually our own. Do people actually annoy me or am I just hormonal? Do I hate chewing noises or am I just hormonal? Do my work pants really look like baggy clown pants or am I just hormonal? (All hypothetical of course.)

And, there is a stigma with PMS (I mean, yuck, I hate that word). I think we are taught not to blame our hormones, or to deny their existence.  But I think for the sake of my sanity, it just has to be true.

The worst part is that men will never understand. They think it’s all in our head or we’re crazy. But it’s like being under arrest by our own bodies. Chemicals you can’t even prove.

Now I am even more depressed.

And I shouldn’t blame Leap Day, I’ve been feeling this way for a couple of days. As a matter of fact, I feel this way at this exact time every month….gotta call my doctor, I need Yaz…….

 

Two Reasons Why I Need to Have a Pizza Party

February 28, 2012

Today was SUPPOSED to be my BIG DAY–but I was stood up.

(HEAVEN’s to BETSY! I am NOT talking about my wedding day, please stop panicking!!!)

Whoa, I think I freaked out there a little bit myself. No, it was just that today was supposed to be the deadline for this giant project that I had been working so hard on since November. I’ve been staying late, coming in early. Knocking my brains around, scalding my eyeballs, slicing my hands with paper (accidently), developing multiple scary personalities, all gearing up for TODAY.

I arrived at work today looking more businessly beautiful than I ever have and ever will in my life, and I sat down at my computer, logged into my e-mail, only to see that the deadline of my project was CANCELLED. And would be rescheduled. For April. And the e-mail had been sent the night prior, about the time I was commuting home... Big Fat LOL

In reality, where I am hormonally stable and extremely reasonable (…) this is good news. I don’t get to be finished with the project, but I will have more time to cram in all the things I did not finish in time. And I am a perfectionist, and apparently a sadist, so I will take this Part Two and continue to work really hard. But seriously folks…The worst part was my outfit really was my best ever.

And that is Reason Number One why I need to have a pizza party tonight.

Reason  Number Two for Needing a Pizza Party: I am trying to win a trip to Mexico and I need to spend the rest of the night eating pizza and entering the contest. C’mon Mexico!!!

Pizza’s here. GOTTA GO!